TERRE HAUTE —
Richard Mourdock is back on the political trail, speaking at Republican Lincoln Day Dinners around the state and telling GOP faithful that he hasn’t ruled out another run at elective office.
He apparently is being well-received by party faithful, some of whom buy the line that Mourdock’s astonishing defeat last fall was caused by unfair coverage by “liberal” media.
But Republicans need to think long and hard before aligning with a Mourdock candidacy again.
Mourdock, you will recall, caused a national firestorm when he said during a televised debate two weeks before the 2012 election that a pregnancy resulting from rape is something “God intended to happen.”
When ballots were counted the night of Nov. 6, Mourdock lost by about 6 percentage points to Democrat Congressman Joe Donnelly. After winning the GOP primary over longtime Sen. Richard Lugar by more than 30 points in the spring, Mourdock proceeded to lose what should have been a slam-dunk election for a seat that had been in Republican hands for 36 years.
How did that happen? It certainly wasn’t because of mistreatment by the “liberal” media. Nor was it because it was a Democrat year. It was anything but that. Mitt Romney won the Hoosier state easily. Mike Pence held the governor’s office for the GOP. With few exceptions, Republicans dominated the state.
So, how did it happen? Thousands upon thousands of Republican-leaning voters split their ticket when it came to Mourdock. These were conservative Hoosiers who voted for Romney, Pence, their Republican congressman, etc., but when it came to the Senate race, they opted to cross over and check Donnelly’s name. They did so for a variety of reasons, including their dislike of the way Mourdock treated Lugar, or his hard-core, uncompromising views on key issues.
It’s also important to note that Mourdock’s election was in jeopardy before his controversial debate comments. Polls had Donnelly pulling ahead. There was a good chance Mourdock would have lost the race anyway, although the vote count might have been tighter.
Two years remain in Mourdock’s term as state Treasurer, so it’s possible he could find his way back onto a statewide ballot after that. But it’s puzzling why Republicans would even consider embracing him.
The GOP does not need candidates with Mourdock’s history and baggage. In fact, the Republican Party on all levels will be better served when it distances itself from the tea party-fueled rage to which Mourdock catered.
Cultivating diverse political interests will make GOP conservatism more palatable to broader constituencies in the future. If the Republican Party hopes to sustain its current level of success, candidates’ such as Mourdock can’t be part of the plan.